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Historic sites through the viewfinder

July 29, 2010

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Now, when I say “historic sites through the viewfinder” I don’t mean the viewfinder you had as a kid, that plastic update of the old stereoscope concept with those circular image disks you clicked through.  Not that one.

I mean the one in your camera.  (Or am I dating myself because you have a screen on the back of your fantastic pocket digital Elph/Coolpix/PoGo?)

It’s time to get out your camera and get snapping.  It’s National Historic Landmark Photo Contest time!  The National Park Service has made it easier than ever to enter — just visit the 2010 National Historic Landmark Photo Contest page at Flickr or, for more information, visit the contest webpage at NPS (you’ll see a slideshow of last year’s winners in the header).  Register with Flickr, join the pool and upload up to ten photographs you think capture the essence of your favorite National Historic Landmarks — one image per NHL.  (If you’re a professional photographer with inquiries about rights issues, email nhl_photo at nps dot gov for alternative permissions standards.)  Be sure to tag your photos 2010nhlphotocontest

The contest ends September 10, 2010.  Winners will be notified by September 24.  Now go take pictures!

If you are an NHL or local historical society, consider using the contest as a way of engaging local residents and potential visitors or members.  Host your own local contest and then enter the top three images in the contest.  In your local contest, have categories for kids, amateurs, pros.  Make up your own categories that resonate for your local organization and community history.  Providing a list of NHLs nearby helps raise awareness of the significant places in your own locale.  Have fun with it!

What are National Historic Landmarks?

I’m glad you asked!

The designation is the gold standard for historic sites.  It is often confused with “National Register” status.  The National Register is a listing of thousands of special places across the country with important national, state or local significance.

A National Historic Landmark is one of fewer than 2,500 places selected for their extraordinary importance in telling the story of our nation.  They include presidents’ houses and exceptional architectural examples, but also battlefields, archaeological sites, vessels, neighborhoods and town centers (National Historic Landmark Districts).  They tell stories about women’s history, slavery, invention, art, innovation, generosity, derring-do and more.

Some states have more than others.  In cities like Philadelphia, Boston and New York, you don’t have to walk too many blocks to find one.  In states like Wyoming and Colorado, they are farther afield.

To see if a historic site you love is an NHL or to find one near you, check the National Historic Landmark database (beware its finicky search engine).  FYI:  The slide show above features National Historic Landmark sites but all the images are from my own little shoebox file of pictures and have nothing to do with the contest.

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